Assault by student doesn't entitle teacher to benefits for PTSD
Case name: Whetstone v. Jefferson Parish School Board, No. 12-CA-639 (La. Ct. App. 05/30/13).
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that a teacher was not entitled to benefits for alleged post-traumatic stress disorder after she was assaulted by a student within the course and scope of her employment.
What it means: In Louisiana, to prove entitlement for a mental injury resulting from mental stress, the worker must show that the mental injury was caused by a sudden, unexpected, and extraordinary stress related to employment.
Summary: A special education teacher observed a 12-year-old student slap her assistant. The teacher attempted to render aid to the assistant and was also physically attacked by the student. She sought medical treatment for pain in her neck, shoulder, arm, breast, and back resulting from the assault. Later, the teacher claimed that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. She sought workers' compensation benefits. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that she was not entitled to benefits.
The school board did not dispute that the teacher was assaulted by a student while in the course and scope of her employment. The court found that she did not sustain a mental injury resulting from sudden, unexpected, and extraordinary stress resulting from the assault.
The teacher saw 15 health care professionals in the nine years after the incident. Upon learning that she was released to return to work, she told one doctor that although the school board was making it easy for her to return to work, she had made up her mind not to return to the classroom and planned to get other doctors to say that she could not return to work. Four years after the incident, the teacher was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by a psychiatrist and a social worker. However, as early as one year after the incident, four doctors agreed that she had reached maximum medical improvement and could return to work.
The court pointed out that the social worker's diagnosis or opinions regarding the diagnosis were not relevant to the teacher's workers' compensation claim. A mental injury or illness must be diagnosed by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 30, 2013
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